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Biggest Unanswered Questions From Cocaine Bear

"Cocaine Bear" is an R-rated horror-comedy about ... well, a bear going on a bloody rampage after consuming some cocaine — pretty self-explanatory really. The story is set in 1985 in the Georgia state Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest and follows a dangerous giant black bear who inadvertently snorts some left-behind drugs from a downed cartel plane — thus transforming into the titular drug-addled apex predator. Once the cocaine bear gets high enough, it begins rampaging throughout the national park — killing off hikers, drug dealers, and local teens who get in its way.

The film itself is as fun, bloody, and ridiculous as the name implies, however, while logic and plot aren't the main contributing factors in the audience's enjoyment of a film called "Cocaine Bear," there are nonetheless some questions that go unanswered by the time the credits roll. These include inconsistent character motivations, unexplained and random plot developments, as well as unresolved narrative threads. While none of this ruins the enjoyment of the film at all, these are some of the things in "Cocaine Bear" that left us scratching our heads afterward.

Warning: Spoilers incoming for "Cocaine Bear."

Was the bear already high during the first attack?

Like a lot of monster horror movies, Elizabeth Banks' "Cocaine Bear" begins with an attack by the eponymous creature — setting the scene for the rest of the movie's bloody antics. We're introduced to engaged couple Olaf (Kristofer Hivju) and Elsa (Hannah Hoekstra), hiking through the forest and discussing their upcoming marriage. Then, disaster strikes, and Elsa is mauled and brutally killed by the bear, with her disembodied leg flying into the air.

While this first kill is in line with a lot of other creature features, it is left surprisingly ambiguous about whether this bear attack was precipitated by the cocaine, or if the bear was aggressive already and the cocaine just gave it a bit of extra pep in its step. Admittedly, the first scene of the film sees drug smuggler Andrew C. Thornton II (Matthew Rhys) dropping cocaine out of a plane prior to Elsa's death. So it is pretty heavily implied that the bear already got into the drugs when it rampaged across the hiker's path, but considering we don't actually see the bear consume the cocaine on screen before this attack, it is still more ambiguous than it should've been.

Why didn't the bear kill Dee Dee?

One of the main subplots in "Cocaine Bear" involves Keri Russell as Sari, a struggling and busy nurse and single mother to rebellious pre-teen daughter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince). Their relationship is a bit strained, due to Sari dating one of her co-workers at the hospital, and Dee Dee obviously being uncomfortable with her mother moving onto a new relationship. Eventually, Dee Dee and her friend Henry (Christian Convery) skip school and sneak into the forest so that she can paint the waterfall there. It isn't long before they encounter the cocaine and the bear, and this is where some of the inconsistencies in the bear's killer instincts come in. 

While the bear goes into full kill mode towards Henry — who retreats up a tree for safety — it appears to let Dee Dee get away and this goes unexplained. It seems unlikely that the young girl could've outrun a drug-fuelled predator, and since we don't actually see her escape on screen, it stretches credulity even more. This becomes even more evident when Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) and Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) come into the picture, with the Ranger escaping (for now) with just injuries while Peter bears the full brunt of the attack. The latter can be explained away due to the fact Peter had cocaine on his jacket, but it still leaves the open question of why the bear attacks some and not others.

How did Daveed get those particular fingers shot off with one bullet?

To be fair, this particular question is asked incredulously in the film for comedic effect, however, it isn't actually answered. Toward the middle of the film, a loyal enforcer named Daveed (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) — who works for crime boss Syd (Ray Liotta) — and Syd's reluctant son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), are sent to recover the lost cocaine. Once they realize a gang of teen punks has got their first, they subdue them and force one of them — a kid named Stache (Aaron Holliday) — to lead them to where they stashed it.

They learn that the rowdy teens hid the cocaine in a gazebo far into the forest, but instead of the drugs, they find a police detective named Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who has been after Syd for years. This leads to a stand-off between the cop and the group of criminals, and eventually, Bob shoots at Daveed as a warning shot, resulting in him having his fingers blown off. This isn't necessarily strange in itself, except for the fact that with one bullet Bob manages to shoot off Daveed's index finger and ring finger. Even Eddie comments on how unlikely the shot is and how it was accomplished, but the film never gives us any insight into how Bob acquired his sharpshooting skills.

How did Eddie survive a large bear falling on him?

It may be surprising to learn that "Cocaine Bear" is based on a true story, but the real events are not quite as exciting as the ones depicted in the movie. The real bear didn't do much while high on cocaine and died soon after the drugs had been consumed. This wouldn't make much of a story so, of course, Hollywood added some gruesome and bloody kills to make a more satisfying narrative. While the film added maulings, it also added comedy — including moments depicting the bear suffering from the cliched effects of cocaine as though it had taken it at a party. This includes being overly and uncomfortably touchy-feely and eventually passing out from an excess of energy. It is Eddie that experiences this in the most painful manner when the bear passes out on him. 

Even if Eddie were to survive the bear falling on him — which isn't likely given the creature's size — he would've at least sustained some pretty serious injuries. The filmmakers didn't hold back in terms of exaggerating the bear's size for the purposes of the movie, so it is implausible that Eddie walks away almost unharmed. The characters in "Cocaine Bear" are not cartoons, and it is clear they can be maimed by the bear and others. For example, Daveed's altercation with law enforcement leaves him with injuries that burden him throughout the film, meaning it makes even less sense that Eddie isn't hurt when the bear collapses on him.

Why did they leave Olaf behind?

After losing Dee Dee following the bear's rampage, Sari and Henry are searching the forest for her when they come across the tragic hiker Olaf from the beginning of the film. Having watched his betrothed dragged to her death, he is understandably a shell of his former self. His clothes are rags, his belongings are tossed all over the place, and he's trembling and muttering from obvious PTSD. Fortunately, though, he did spot Dee Dee running from the bear and he is able to point Sari and Henry in the right direction, and helpfully provide them with snacks and a flashlight. However, when Olaf asks to tag along with them, the supposedly heroic characters promptly ignore him. 

It is an odd narrative choice for many reasons. It seems most likely that he was so distraught from the death of his fiancée that he wanted to be left alone to die in the woods, but this still doesn't explain the lack of reaction from Sari and Henry. As he had just helped them, surely they would want to repay his kindness, and strength in numbers may have better equipped them to go and save Dee Dee. It does feel like something is missing from this particular scene — perhaps something that ended up on the cutting room floor. To add insult to injury, Olaf is later unceremoniously found dead by Daveed, Eddie, and Syd, and you can't help but think this character deserved better.

How did Syd expect to explain to the cartel about the missing cocaine?

Low-rent drug kingpin Syd is first introduced at the beginning of the film, babysitting his son Eddie's kid, and ordering his right-hand man Daveed to pick up the missing Eddie. After this, Syd isn't really in on the action until the third act and when he does show up, he reveals that the missing cocaine was part of a Colombian cartel drug operation. Worse than that, if they don't find all of the cocaine, Syd, Eddie, and Eddie's son will all be in danger. 

If the threat of the Colombian drug cartel wasn't enough, imagine Syd's horror when he learns that there is a bear — and later, her cubs — who have been eating the cocaine since it was dumped in the forest. Hilariously, it never occurs to Syd how this crucial factor is going to affect his report to the Colombians. By this late point in the film, the titular bear has already consumed a large portion of the cocaine, and Syd never acknowledges this, nor seems to have any plan on how he would break this news to those threatening his family. This seems like a pretty important oversight seeing that the cartel wants all of the cocaine back — something that Syd doesn't stop reminding us.

What happened to the Colombian cartel?

Before the events of the film take place, it is clear that Eddie is already trying to distance himself from his corrupt father Syd, and the family drug business. In fact, before the final showdown, Eddie decides to get away — not just from the forest but away from the crime business once and for all. That changes, however, when Syd tells Eddie that they're all in danger from the cartel if they don't recover the drugs. Bear or no bear.

One of the problems with the film is that this subplot never gets resolved. The crime subplot — which sees Syd, Eddie, and Daveed trying to find the drugs — runs parallel with the storyline involving Sari and Henry searching for the missing Dee Dee. These two plots converge, and Eddie decides to ditch finding the cocaine to save Sari, Henry, and Dee Dee from the bears and Syd. However, Eddie never recovers the drugs and Syd meets a violent end at the claws of the bear so it leaves the question open: What happens to the cartel? Given that Eddie and his son's lives are at stake, he seems to be surprisingly blasé about this, and once he crosses paths with Sari, he never mentions this again and the cartels never show up.

Were there any consequences for Officer Reba?

After Andrew C. Thornton II is found dead — having knocked himself out trying to parachute from his downed plane — we are introduced to our two police officers: Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Reba (Ayoola Smart). Later, Bob gets a tip on where to find the rest of the drugs — hopefully giving him enough evidence to take down the crime kingpin, Syd. With multiple parties pursuing the same haul, they inevitably collide, and the resulting fracas sees Bob shooting Daveed's fingers off and Bob shot by Syd. Following this, it is also revealed that Officer Reba was on Syd's payroll and she had betrayed Bob.

When an officer is on the wrong side of the law, you would expect there to be some consequences but there are none. There's no sense of closure with this character at all and a lot of unanswered questions. Does she remain on the force? If so, is she still on the cartel's payroll? Or does the experience with the cocaine bear make her change her perspective completely? This lack of closure seems especially egregious, given her story seems like it would be one of the more consequential overall.

Why did the EMT open the ranger station door?

Following a violent bloodbath at the forest ranger station, two emergency medical technicians — Tom (Scott Seiss) and Beth (Kahyun Kim) — arrive on the scene. They find an injured and bloodied Ranger Liz huddled in the corner, with various body parts strewn about the station. Flabbergasted by the violent sight, the EMTs are also unaware that a dangerous coked-out bear is in there as well. 

Tom becomes fixated on opening a restricted door for no reason. This is particularly odd because there are no sounds emanating from the other side of it, and the victim who is in need of medical attention is on the same side of the door as him. Later it is revealed that the bear is hiding on the other side of the door and opening it inevitably leads to bloody carnage and the death of the EMTs and Ranger Liz. It is a common trope in horror movies that the characters seem intent on making very poor decisions, and while this is certainly in line with that, it doesn't make it any less baffling.

Are the sheep at the end going to go feral too?

While after-credits sequences are nothing new in film, it's become more prevalent in recent years — especially since the astronomical success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films' famous after-credits scenes. So, like most new releases these days, 2023's "Cocaine Bear" also has a pair of post-credits scenes. 

One of these follows the teen Stache, standing on the side of the road and trying to get to New York City. He is eventually picked up by the driver of a beat-up farm truck, with a crowded flock of sheep bunched into the back. Then we see there's a bag of cocaine in the truck also, which spills onto the animals. The scene ends just as Stache gets in the truck, but there is a lingering shot of the sheep with coke on them, possibly implying they will be the next rampaging animals. The movie purposefully keeps that implication vague with nothing confirmed on screen, but could this in fact be the start of the Cocaine Bear Cinematic Universe? We'll just have to wait and see on that one.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).